DALLAS -- The city of Chicago is looking to finance a high-speed rail line between downtown and O’Hare International Airport through a public-private agreement.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced that the city along with the Chicago Infrastructure Trust issued a formal Request for Qualifications seeking companies to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the express rail service. Although cost estimates for the project are not yet known, the RFQ stipulates that the O'Hare Express Service will be funded solely by project-specific revenues, such as fares or advertising, and financed entirely by the concessionaire. There will be no taxpayer funding for the project.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport in 2016.
The city of Chicago plans to fund an express rail line between downtown and O'Hare airport through a public-private partnership. Chicago Department of Aviation

“Express service to and from O'Hare will give Chicagoans and visitors to our great city more options, faster travel times, and build on Chicago’s competitive advantage as a global hub of tourism, transportation and trade," Emanuel said.
“The CIT’s involvement in this transformative project is perfectly suited to our purpose to act as a specialized resource to the city focused on infrastructure financing and development,” said Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers, who chairs the Infrastructure Trust. “We look forward to reviewing the proposals and continuing to move this important project forward.”

Responses to the RFQ are due on Jan.24, but there’s no timeline for selecting the most qualified respondent or beginning construction.

Emanuel first announced plans for the express rail service in February and said then that the city had been hearing from potential investors and companies around the world. Emanuel set a three-year goal to begin the project and announced the city hired Bob Rivkin, former general counsel at the U.S. Department of Transportation, to “provide legal expertise in identifying a clear path forward and working with potential partners.”

Engineering firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff has been examining routes for the service that has long been a goal of Emanuel and his predecessor Richard M. Daley.

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